Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Ó hAdhmaill, F.
‘Understanding Conflict: Research, ideas and responses to security threats’ University of Bath, June 2015
‘Who are the ‘Terrorists’? An Exploration of Gramscian hegemonic discourse in academia
University of Bath, England
Invited Lectures (Conference)
Optional Fields
This paper attempts to explore the common sense acceptance, reproduction and reinforcement of dominant hegemonic discourses about ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’, in academia. It argues that uncritical, unqualified acceptance of such dominant discourse by academics potentially prevents the development of rigorous social scientific research, the unravelling of the underlying causes of conflict as well as potentially delaying the onset of real and meaningful peace. It also potentially places academia firmly on the side of the status quo in conflict situations – “the rhetorical servant of the established order’ to paraphrase Conor Gearty (2002). There is no internationally accepted definition of ‘terrorism’ – for obvious reasons. One person’s terrorist is often another’s freedom fighter and past ‘terrorists’ historically have had an uncanny ability to become future state leaders (e.g. 1993 Noble Peace Prize winner, Mandela). Powerful states also regularly engage in terror to promote their own interests, be it the ‘shock and awe’ of the first War on Iraq, or the two “Reigns of Terror’, described by Mark Twain, of violence on the one hand and poverty and hunger on the other, yet their actions are rarely designated as ‘terrorist’ in the academic literature. American historian Walter Laqueur has counted over 100 definitions of ‘terrorism’ and concludes that the 'only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence.' (Record, 2003). The celebrated Irish author, Brendan Behan, and one time ‘terrorist’ himself probably produced the best definition of what a ‘terrorist’ is - ‘those with the small bombs’. A rigorous social science needs to interrogate the use of highly politicised subjective concepts such as ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ and recognise the complexities of the many conflicts in the world – complexities which such concepts deny.